Mind the Gap

How I Survived Reenacting Burn-out.

 

In 2015, I experienced the dreaded “B” word of reenacting: burnout. As any reenactor knows, it’s easy to dedicate a lot of time, effort & research into this hobby. But after nearly 9 years of focusing on the 18th century & the coffeehouse, things began to change. My demonstration had grown to the point of needing staff. The equipment required renting larger, and larger vehicles. The time required to travel to events & set everything up started to interfere with my modern life. In short, reenacting became less of a fun hobby and more of an unpaid job. Soon enough, I simply stopped having fun.

And I crave that fun! But what is an obsessed arm-chair historian to do when they still love their hobby, but hate their hobby at the same time?

Simple: branch out. History is a huge subject, reenacting not limited to one or two “important” time period or type of impression. Reenacting is an all encompassing variety of niche skills to explore. And in 2015, explore I did.

1st Century

Oil lamps in the taverna, 25AD.

I started early in the year with an amazing immersion event in Lafe, Arkansas; Clash of Iron. I have done exactly one Roman event in my tenure of reenacting, but nothing that involved eating, sleeping & breathing the Iron Age. I had also never been to Arkansas. When I heard about the site I simply had to attend. This wasn’t just your average line-up of white tents. The event is held on a privately owned, reconstructed Roman fort. There is even a mote! We cooked Roman recipes, practiced Roman martial skills, had a mini-Olympic competition & even ran into some Celts. It was as close to live in the 1st Century as possible without being struck by one of Zeus’ lightening bolts.

16th Century

Confiring with the Polish Ambassedor, 1587.

In 2015 I was elected the leader of The Banner of St. Michael, a living history group dedicated to the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1560-1660. I have been a member of the group for several years already but this new position means even more dedication to research, learning & sharing with the public. We spend equal time participating in living history events around the country and delivering school presentations. It’s only been a few months, but I am already excited with the new energy of the group and some of the great things we have planned for the 2016 season.

Civil War

Relaxing in the Kitchen, 1865.

Remember when I said I would never do 2 very specific time periods? Well 2015 saw me eat those words. It started simply enough. My home town was celebrating their 150th anniversary. It also happened to be the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination. I quickly made an outfit, borrowed a few basic pieces from my already over flowing reenacting closet and was off & running. What was originally only going to be those 2 once in a life-time events, turned into 4 by the end of the year. As it happens, reenacting the civil war is pretty much like all other reenacting. Especially when the 3 other people in your camp group are friends from other eras!

The Great War

Waiting for the Doughboys to arrive for lunch, 1914.

If reenacting the Civil War is just like all other reenacting, then WWI at Midway Village is like WWII deja vous. So many of the same people from WWII, in the same location, many of us even representing the same nationalities. It is less like doing another time period than I imagined. A weekend spent with already established friends, while still doing something new, was just the cure my burnout needed. While I am still convinced that the 1910’s is one of the 3 ugliest time periods for women’s clothing (the other’s being 1830’s & 1970’s), I did enjoy spending time in the kitchen or tromping around in the recreated trenches with the men.

WW2

Three dames at the hanger dance, 1942.

I wrapped up the year with WWII, which isn’t a new era of reenacting for me. In fact, it was the first era that really started my interest in historic clothing & history. Way back in 1997! But like I said, reenacting involves many facets beyond just dressing up or lecturing bored school kids. In 2015 I was thrilled to join the amazing cast & crew of the TV movie Verrater for my first film acting experience. And what an amazing experience it was. I can’t say enough about how truly dedicated to getting the details of 1940’s Germany historically accurate the production team was. Many of my fellow reenactors have participated in filming projects before, but for someone who has only ever been on stage or behind the camera there was surprisingly little learning curve. I credit the years of living history, having to maintain a character & accent while following the random topics of natural conversation & having to repeat the same lecture to endless rounds of school groups, for the ease that I felt on set. I look forward to more interesting “out-side the box” experiences like this in the future.

Looking forward to the 2016 reenacting schedule as well as my 10th anniversary on this blog & in the hobby, I can confidently say that a Gap Year was exactly what I needed to revive my love for reenacting. Here is to seeing many of you in EVERY ERA!

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